Music Therapy was relatively unknown when Jennifer Buchanan finished her degree program out of Capilano University in British Columbia in 1991. At the age of 21, she loaded her car and traveled to Calgary to complete her certification, which required 1000 hours of internship. “I can remember filling my car with all the stuff you think you need and I had all the wisdom of a 21-year old. I fell in love with this city.”
In the 25-years since, Jennifer has been responsible for the implementation of hundreds of music therapy programs through her well-established company JB Music Therapy, currently serving around 1,800 clients ranging in ages from 2-months old to 106-years old. She provides Music Therapy in Palliative care sites, hospice sites, mental health facilities, and more. She sees clients with visual impairment, dementia, cerebral palsy, autism, and a number of other issues seeking the benefits of Music Therapy.
Early in her career, professionals attempted to dissuade Jennifer from her chosen business calling it an “impossible business model.” She was bold in early days: “the nice thing about not knowing what you are doing at the beginning is that you do whatever you need to do; you’re constantly innovating,” she said. What led her to the University of Fredericton was the moment when she came to the realization that she did not have the business knowledge she needed.
“I was just over that 40-year mark in my own personal age, and at about the 20-year mark of my business and I was really realizing that I wasn’t sure if this was truly viable and sustainable,” she said.
Jennifer’s business model differed from others in that it is a for-profit organization that both serves non-profits and operates among non-profits. When she would speak with other executives from larger companies, they possessed a “special language” that she felt she lacked. She began her search for business education:
“I was searching for an MBA program off and on for probably 3 to 4 years when I saw the Social Enterprise Leadership [specialty] stream at UFred. It was pretty emotional. I just knew that you basically developed this whole program just for me. I am really proud to have completed my education in Canada.”
With her MBA from the Sandermoen School of Business at UFred, Jennifer has developed confidence. “I started understanding my clients better,” she said. The knowledge, she’s gained at UFred has helped her increase her business:
“We’ve tripled our profit over the years that I’ve been at UFred. We’re creating more Music Therapy jobs, and we’re able to serve more people.”
Jennifer is not planning to slow down. When asked where she sees herself going professionally from here, she said:
“I’d like to write another book. My first book was on Music Therapy; my second book is going to be about Community Impact. I’ve been looking at that for some time. Also, I would like to do more training and education myself, supporting other small businesses, other social businesses, in particular across the country. Learning from them, partnering with them, and supporting the as best I can.”
Jennifer credits her MBA at UFred with helping her recognize her weaknesses and helping to “massage” them away. To other business owners she says, “there’s always going to be a way to improve your business so it can upgrade or impact on your community and in your own life.”